Can Over Ear Headphones Cause Neck Pain? 

by Alex.   Last Updated On July 15th, 2022.
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Whether it’s for study, work, or recreation, wearing over ear headphones is an essential part of our daily lives. Drowning out noise enables you to have a quiet, safe space to listen to music, lessons, podcasts, or meetings.

However, excessive usage of headphones and earbuds can not only cause hearing damage or ear damage, but can also instigate tension on your temporal muscles and pain in your jaw and neck.

Even if your headphones are designed for comfortability and ergonomics, the constant squeezing pressure you feel in your skull will still be there, and it leads to trauma in your head and neck muscles, thereby inducing pain in the taut areas. 

This article will tackle everything you need to know about neck pain caused by wearing over ear headphones and what you can do to remedy it.

Table of Contents

Different Types of Pain You Can Experience

This certainly isn’t an uncommon phenomenon. A lot of people feel sinus pressure, ear discomfort, headaches, muscle pain, and in extreme cases, nausea when wearing over-ear headphones. Some people have even claimed that wearing headphones has caused a dent in their skull and brain damage.

Most of the time, headphone users will shrug off the pain that they feel and continue using them. It will be like a mind over matter situation right? Just condition your mind into thinking that your body will adjust to it and the pain will disappear in no time.

Well, I hate to break it to you, but this is wrong. You will definitely be feeling uncomfortable for a longer period of time than what you think.

Wearing headphones without doing anything to remedy the pain will eventually aggravate your situation. On the first onslaught of pain, you shouldn’t ignore your body signals. Small symptoms will lead to major pain.

Know The Science Behind It

As mentioned earlier, the headbands of your headphones give you an uncomfortable sensation of being pushed on both sides of your head, which stresses the bones in your jaw and muscles in your neck. If you’re using noise-canceling headphones, as most people do, it’s more complicated.

Noise-canceling headphones helps you listen to music at lower volumes by replicating background noise as a way of blocking it out. However, there will be by-products of low-frequency vibrations that can affect the way the brain perceives balance and motion.

In other words, the head muscles think you’re moving, but the eyes say otherwise. This confusion causes headaches, dizziness, and pain because you lack enough head and neck movement to loosen up your tense muscles.

While it does sound scary, and maybe a little confusing, but don’t worry because you’ll be alright as long as you listen to your body.

Behavior That Can Worsen The Pain

Now that you know the science behind it, it is also important to pinpoint other probable reasons behind your suffering that can further worsen it.

Prolonged Wear

You may have been using your headphones for an ungodly amount of time. According to the American Osteopathic Association, sound devices should only be used for a total of 60 minutes a day. That’s equal to about 15 songs or an episode of the Netflix show you’re currently watching.

The muscle strain you experience will be unnoticeable at first but it will gradually worsen as time goes on. Before you know it, you’re starting to experience the pain.

Headphone Quality

Your headphone’s features may also be the culprit. It may be too heavy or the headband may be too tight around your head without you realizing. It can even be because the material (e.g. head cushions, ear cuffs) is flimsy and wears out easily.

It is important for you to determine the reason you’re using headphones in order to know what kind of features you should be looking out for when selecting the perfect product. Checking reviews on popular sites, knowing the buying guide, getting recommendations from friends, and doing simple research are also a must.


Using your headphones may influence your posture, especially if you are facing a desktop or laptop. It is likely you adopt a head-and-shoulders-forward position when listening to sounds. This ultimately strains the muscles and ligaments that support your neck, eventually causing pain.

They’re Just Not For You

Pain from Wearing headphones is not uncommon, but there are also several people that don’t experience these symptoms. Your body may simply not be built for using them.

Research is continuously being done to determine the reason why some feel discomfort and/or pain when using over-ear headphones, and some do not, but no scientific consensus has been reached yet. It is safe to say that multiple clinical trials are still being tested to reach a definitive conclusion.

What You Can Do to Prevent it

Stopping the use of headphones is simply impossible; they are a necessity for basic human functioning. Whether it is for working or studying, relaxing, or playing, humans are not willing to listen without good sound quality with little to no background noise at all.

The best course of action is knowing how to better take care of yourself and committing to doing your best in eradicating your neck pain and discomfort.

Here are some ways that might help:

Don’t ignore the pain

Although it happens to a lot of headphone users, don’t let yourself get accustomed to the pain. Immediately seek ways how you can alleviate it.

Provide temporary relief

Apply a hot compress to your jaw and neck. Drink tea and allow yourself to rest for an extended period or better yet, sleep.

Take multiple breaks when necessary

Make sure you take an adequate amount of time away from using headphones to loosen some of the muscle strain you’re experiencing.

Purchase quality headphones

Check the quality of the material if they are soft but sturdy. Find the right fit for you. Be it for gaming, for work, or for some fun, casual listening. I personally recommend that you try the Sennheiser HD 569.

Wear your headphones properly

Make necessary adjustments on the height of the headphones, clamping strength, and cable placements until you finally feel comfortable enough.

Improve your posture

Remember to sit straight at the right angle. Stay at a sufficient distance from your laptop or desktop if you’re using them so you won’t hunch your back on default.


Easier said than done but there’s no sugarcoating it. You need to stretch out those tense muscles. WebMD provides simple neck exercises to get rid of neck pain.


Over ear headphones provide users with an escapade to noise isolation paradise, which is why they are a sought-after product. However, there will always be consequences to your actions. You may experience neck pain and muscle tension that you didn’t sign up for.

At the very least, you know that you aren’t alone in it. So, at the first sign of pain, you must do what you can to remedy the situation. Treat it like an emergency and seek pain alleviation immediately.

Despite having no one-size-fits-all prevention method, you must know the science behind your pain, what other behavior can exacerbate it, and what you can do to keep it from happening again in the future.